Using ants, animal behavior and the learning cycle to investigate scientific processes

Russell A. Ligon, Adam G. Dolezal, Michael R. Hicks, Michael W. Butler, Nathan I. Morehouse, Tirupalavanam G. Ganesh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The behavior of animals is an intrinsically fascinating topic for students from a wide array of backgrounds. We describe a learning experience using animal behavior that we created for middle school students as part of a graduate-student outreach program, Graduate Partners in Science Education, at Arizona State University in collaboration with a K-8 public school. This activity capitalizes on the interest that animal behavior can generate to introduce and reinforce student understanding of the scientific method. Specifically, our activity highlights the general utility of the scientific method and uses this method to examine ant social behavior, with emphasis on generating and testing hypotheses. Furthermore, this activity introduces the idea of animal societies and encourages students to apply the concepts they learn to other species, including humans. By collecting ants locally, from schoolyards or nearby habitats, this experience situates learning in the context of students own communities. We also provide optional assessment materials that teachers can use to assess learning objectives and standard mastery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)525-534
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Biology Teacher
Issue number8
StatePublished - Oct 1 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Ethology
  • NGSS
  • data collection
  • hypothesis
  • middle school
  • scientific method

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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